This Memorial Day Weekend, Police Are Eyeing the Fatal 4

The holiday weekend is wrapping up. A few days ago the Illinois State Police announced they were on the lookout for the driving practices they call the Fatal 4:


  • Speeding
  • Not wearing seat belts
  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving

Why those particular practices? Because they’re the ones that cause more road fatalities than any others. Road in a green forest
They’re responsible for making Memorial Day Weekend synonymous not just with remembrance and celebration but with road accidents.

And all of them are preventable with some common sense. Your common sense.

So whether you’re in Illinois or in 49 other states, you can count on police everywhere to be looking out for the Fatal 4. Please look out for them as well. And have a safe weekend.


Why are More Women Drinking and Driving?

women drinking image

Women drinking and driving is on the rise. A recent study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has found a significant increase in DUIs among women drivers. This increase covers all ages of women, but especially women over 50 and under 30. And California is not alone. Other surveys have found similar results in Michigan, Missouri and New York.

These statistics are particularly disconcerting, especially considering that the rates of DUI arrests among men has been on the decline since 2007.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do. One reason is that, on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol resides predominantly in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute as well.

According to Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—and How They can Regain Control, “By every quantitative measure, women are drinking more. They’re being charged more often with drunk driving, they’re more frequently measured with high concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstreams at the scene of car accidents, and they’re more often treated in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated.”

She continues, “A national analysis of hospitalizations for alcohol overdose found that the rate of young females age eighteen to twenty-four jumped 50 percent between 1999 and 2008. In the same period, the rate for young men rose only 8 percent.”

In 2010, Gallup pollsters reported that nearly two-thirds of all American women drank regularly, a higher percentage than any other time in twenty-five years.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as men, and are more likely to treat their symptoms with alcohol. Other risk factors include a history of sexual abuse and bulimia, both of which also affect more women than men.

DUI Technology – Smartphone Breathalyzers

breathometerThe increased crackdown on drunk drivers has given rise to a plethora of new mobile phone apps to help drinkers avoid being arrested. These apps come with a range of features. Some helping you measure or estimate your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to see if it is within legal limits. Some help you find out where DUI checkpoints are being held. Some outline the laws and give you the ability to record being pulled over as well as notify a DUI attorney in the event you are arrested. Some connect you with designated driver services.

Smartphone Breathalyzers

A new breed of gadgets that you can attach to your mobile phone include actual breathalyzers. These devices take readings of your breath to determine BAC.

One smartphone breathalyzer is called the Breathometer™. This device clips into your audio jack and works in conjunction with the Breathometer app. When prompted by the app, you “take a deep breath and whistle blow for 5 seconds about an inch away from the illuminated hole.”  The device then displays your BAC level. The developers claim that the device is registered with the FDA and has undergone extensive government testing to an accuracy of ±.01% BAC. You can even share it with friends.

Similar apps include iBreath, BACtrack and Alcohoot.

Binge Drinking on the Rise

Bartender pouring strong alcoholic drink into small glasses on bOver the past few years, there has been an increase in alcohol-impaired driving. This follows a twenty year decline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that this increase is due, at least in part, to a recent significant rise in binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks by a woman within 2 hours. Most binge drinkers do so about 4 times a month.

CDC director Thomas Frieden said that “at least 80 percent of binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent. Yet binge drinking accounts for most deaths from alcohol.”

Binge Drinking Facts

  1. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
  2. While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
  3. Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
  4. Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
  5. Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
  6. The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice that of women.
  7. Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
  8. About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  9. More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Efforts Increase to Eliminate Underage DUI

Young Driver imageUnderage DUIs are on the rise. This prompted a recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The study set out to assess teen understanding of drinking under the influence versus actual behaviors.

The survey uncovered a clear discrepancy between the what teens say and what they do. For instance, one in 10 teens surveyed about their driving behaviors responded that they never drive under the influence. At the same time they said they sometimes get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. In addition, although 86 percent consider driving under the influence to either be extremely or very distracting, 68 percent admitted to driving after having more than three drinks. Also, 21 percent defined designated drivers as those who were “basically sober” and who, they believed, were not too impaired to drive.

Of all the teens surveyed, only 1 percent believed that driving under the influence of alcohol was acceptable. And yet 40 percent claim that alcohol has no impact on their driving. Some said it even helped.

This is a troubling finding. According to Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD, “With teens reporting these lax definitions of what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ a zero tolerance approach is the only answer to prevent potential tragedy.” He advocates for parents and community to create an open dialog with teen drivers to ensure they understand the true stakes in these definitions.

Underage DUI Education in Action

Some schools are heeding the call for education and providing programs. In Elk Grove, California, the Laguna Creek High School was the site of a law court. This event provided teens a lesson on the consequences of drinking and driving. They witnessed an actual trial of a woman arrested for drunk driving on Super Bowl Sunday.

Hamilton High School near Chico held a similar DUI court as two defendants charged with DUIs faced real-life sentencing.  Students were clearly moved by the reality of the situation.

Still other schools use simulator programs to help students understand the physicality of alcohol impairment. The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (WVABCA) in partnership with State Farm and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program created a DUI simulator. This allows students to experience difficult driving conditions under various blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. The DUI simulator has been to every high school in the state and even to numerous colleges and universities.  Over 20,000 students have participated.

San Jose has several DUI education programs including a “Crash Trailer.” This exhibit contains an automobile involved in a fatal traffic involving a drunk driver. It also provides a 2 day program called Every 15 Minutes involving a staged DUI fatal collision and mock funeral.

At Keyser High School in West Virginia, students witness a lifelike mock DUI accident staged by local first responders. The accident involves a set up involving two vehicles, one on its top, to illustrate the reality of potential dangers of drinking while driving. People portray the victims, replete with blood. The first responders even cut two of the victims out of the car.

Ford has created a new suit that simulates being drunk and can be used to train people, especially young drivers, how it feels before they try it in real life.

10 Facts About Women Drinkers

Women in club or disco drinking cocktailsWomen drinkers are on the rise. In fact, according to health surveys, more women are drinking now than at any time in recent history. In 2010, Gallup pollsters reported that nearly two-thirds of all American women drank regularly, a higher percentage than any other time in twenty-five years. Over the past 15 years, the number of women arrested for drunken driving has risen 30%, while male arrests have dropped nearly 0%.

Recent studies found the following:

  1. According to the Wine Institute, an industry trade group, women buy the lion’s share of the nearly 800 million gallons of wine sold in the U.S. annually—and they are its primary drinkers.
  2. Women absorb alcohol into the bloodstream faster and metabolize it slower than men.
  3. For women, drinking in moderation is defined as no more than one drink per day. (One drink is measured at 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)
  4. The risk of breast cancer increases as alcohol use increases.
  5. The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
  6. 40% of alcoholic women attempted to commit suicide, compared to 8.8% of non-alcoholic women.
  7. 58.8% of women age 15-44 drank while pregnant.
  8. Girls who start dieting in sixth grade are more likely to engage in alcohol misuse later in life.
  9. Women with eating disorders, especially bulimia, have a greater incidence of alcohol abuse than in the general population.
  10. 40% of women committing violence were perceived by the victim as being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the crime.

MADD Urges More Support for DUI Victim Rights

Capital BuildingThis week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. While one might think that victims have sufficient rights in the US, the truth is that victims still have fewer rights than criminal offenders. The rights of the criminal offenders are protected by the U.S. Constitution. The rights of victims are not. Granted, victim rights laws today are better than they were. In the past, victims were typically denied access to basic information about their offenders’ court cases and even excluded from the judicial process altogether. They did not have to be notified of court proceedings or of the arrest or release of a defendant, they had no right to attend the trial or other proceedings, and they had no right to make a statement to the court at sentencing or at other hearings. In 1981, a group of advocates created the first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This was to call attention to the victims and their surviving family members. President Reagan created a President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime to assess the situation. They reported a system that was focused on the offender and indifferent to the victim. As a result, in 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) legislation was passed. This was to providing funding for support of victims and to help change the criminal justice system. The report also prompted each state to add victim’s rights language to its constitution. However, currently the US Constitution contains no Victims’ Rights language, whereas there are 23 fundamental rights for someone accused of a crime. Numerous organizations including the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) support such an amendment. A Victims’ Rights Amendment (VRA) was put forward in April of 2013. This amendment delineates rights such as notification of, guaranteed admission to, and the right to speak during the course of legal proceedings including pre-trial release, plea bargains, sentencing and parole. VRA also requires that courts consider victims’ safety when defendants are considered for conditional release. The VRA has raised many concerns. Advocates point to the need to bolster victims’ rights as current statutes are often not enforced. Opponents state that the amendment does not uphold the fundamental ideal of innocence until proven guilty and due process. Time will tell how legislators will craft this amendment and whether it will make it on the ballot in November.

Should Wisconsin DUI Penalties Be Stronger?

Police officer writing ticketWisconsin is the only U.S. state that does not consider a first-time DUI offense a crime. Other states require jail time, counseling, and even an in-car breathalyzer called an ignition interlock to start an offender’s vehicle. Wisconsin simply hands out a ticket.

Yet Wisconsin is infamous for its consumption of alcohol. They claim to be the number 1 binge drinkers in the country. They also have the highest percentage of drinkers per capita. Unfortunately, they also admit to having the most number of drivers under the influence on their roads.

In 2012, Wisconsin had 200 drunk driving fatalities; much higher than the national average. The Wisconsin legislature met just after St. Patrick’s Day to pass a bill clarify the current drunk driving penalties. They required penalties for those drunken drivers who injure someone. They also required prison time of at least three years for those offenders on their seventh, eighth, or ninth conviction.

Yet they did not expand or strengthen the law to address first time offenders or increase penalties for other repeat offenders. The topic is often debated. One concern is the cost of prosecuting. A state analysis concluded last year that making a third drunken-driving conviction a felony would add millions to court and correction costs.

Jim Ott, R-Mequon, has offered up numerous legislative bills to toughen penalties. “We continue to have so many outrageous crashes in Wisconsin,” Ott told The Associated Press in 2012. “Do we just sit back and say ‘we have to live with this’’ or are we going to try and do something?”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been lobbying to bring Wisconsin DUI penalties in line with most other states. Programs that require an ignition interlock device have proven successful in other states. In New Mexico, for instance, DUI fatalities have been reduced by 35% since the state has required that all DUI offenders use an interlock device.

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